Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Have Opened My Teachers Pay Teacher Store

While at the CSTA Conference in San Jose in October, I was encouraged to put my SMART Notebook Lessons, Study Guides and Graphic Organizers, that I have developed over the years, on the Teachers Pay Teachers and website. 

In November I opened my Store and now have 30 items available for teachers to access.  

Please review the items in my TPT Store and let me know if there are any SMART Notebook lessons that you might be interested in having access.

High School Entrance Exam Prep Course with MES

Top Ten Reasons to Take the High School Entrance Exam Prep Class with Miller Educational Services.

La Salle Science Teachers Present at CSTA Conference

La Salle Science Teachers Present at CSTA Conference

As I made my way over to the San Jose Convention Center to prepare for my presentation “Low Budget Manipulatives to Improve Teaching Stoichiometry”, I received a text from my daughter,  with a quote from a keynote speaker at a conference she was attending on health reform in New Orleans.  The quote read, “Teachers touch eternity through their students.”

How appropriate that she would send me this quote when I was about to embark on sharing my teaching with a group of teachers who would then hopefully go on to teach their students, thereby allowing me to touch thousands of students through this opportunity.

Over the weekend of October 18th through the 21st, La Salle Science teachers attended and presented at the California Science Teachers Association Annual Conference.  The  2012 Conference centered on The Common Core Standards (CCS), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Literacy and STEM to Career. 

More than 1,450 workshops were presented for review and 180 were selected for the conference.  For the science teachers at La Salle to present three of the workshops is truly an honor for our department.

Physics teachers Chija Bauer and Kjersti Housman co-presented two workshops: “Inquiry Based Physics Classroom and Standards Based Grading” and “Global Warming Cumulative Project in Physics”  Chemistry teacher Brian Miller and Anthony Ferenades, co-presented “Low Budget Manipulatives to Improve Teaching Stoichiometry”.

It is a wonderful experience to attend association conferences and share ideas and gain new insights into teaching our students.  However, it is a tremendous validation for what we do each and everyday here at La Salle in experiencing the enthusiasm of peers in science education who are excited about we the information we shared and are hopefully energized to carry those methods and concepts back to their own classrooms. 

How great an opportunity to touch the hearts of our own students but also to touch the hearts of those students who will be guided by the teachers who we were fortunate to enough to share our workshops?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Project Based Learning - Left Brain Teacher and Right Brain Student

Too often we as educators design assignments that meet our confort levels.  We schedule due dates and create format details that meet "our" needs for "our" curriculum.  But, do we look at the students needs? 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What will be on the Final Exam?

Invariably at the end of a semester, despite the organized meandering of the teacher, a group of students will ask, "What will be on the Final Exam?"  Not that they hane not sat through every class and taken copious amount of notes, and completed all of the homework including all of the in class work and the study guides that the teacher has provided. But,without fail, the question will be asked.
What will be on the Final Exam?

By the way, I have discovered and I am having way too much fun with it.
Not only making my own videos, but looking for ways to incorporate it into my classroom curriculum and have the students creating these video pieces, to share information, create reviews for the "Final Exam" etc...

I will keep you posted when I decide how this will happen in my classroom.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Teaching the Three C's Video

"The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."
                  - Alvin Toffler -

XtraNormal video about the need to focus on the Three C's, Critical Thinking, Clear Communication and Collaboration. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

IMAGINE - How Creativity Works
by Jonah Lehrer

Just completed the book and found it fascinating.
From where creativity comes from to how to develop those opportunities for creativity.
Lehrer opens up paths to how both the individual mind and the collective society treat the concept of CREATIVITY.

Lehrer provides insight in to the free verse outpouring of an individual like Bob Dylan, the practicality of the inventors at 3M as well as the foresight of the technology wizards of Apple. Lehrer opens up the magical and collaborative world of PIXAR while shedding light on the necessity of interpersonal interaction to encourage the creative process.  From the artisitic onslaught of the Italian Renaissance to the technological  epiphanies of the Silicon Valley, creativity must be developed, nurtured and shared.

Lehrer does a phenomenal job of explaining the science of the brain and its role in the creative process as well as the importance of community to this imagination-creativity-product model.

IMAGINE will provide an opportunity for educators to re-think the process of education and the classroom environment in which the students are required to learn, develop, synthesize and  produce their masterpieces of thought. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Chinese Farmer - Perspective

An old Chinese story tells of a farmer whose only horse runs away. “How terrible!”
say his neighbours. “Maybe!” says the farmer.
The next day his horse returns, bringing along three wild horses. “How wonderful!”
say his neighbours. “Maybe!” says the father.
The following day his son tries to tame one of the wild horses, but he falls off
and breaks his leg. “How terrible!” say his neighbours. “Maybe!” says the farmer.
The next day some soldiers come along to force young men of the village to join
them in war. Because the lad has a broken leg, he is left behind. “How fortunate!”
say the neighbours. “Maybe!” says the farmer.
The soldiers, still one man short, take the young man’s cousin instead. “How
dreadful!” say the farmer’s neighbours.  “Maybe!” says the farmer.
That night a landslide covers the house in which the cousin would have been
sleeping if he had not been taken by the soldiers. “How fortunate!” say the
friends. “Maybe!” says the farmer. And so the story could go on! One of life’s
great lessons is this: we’re never sure just how things are going to turn out. We’ll
live a good life if our attitude is always positive - determined to make the best
of all situations that come up.

So much of what we teach and learn in our classrooms depend upon perspective. 
Determining what is and what isn't important.  Looking for connections to where we have been and where we want to go.  Discovering in ourselves what we desire and devloping a means of obtaining what we want.  All comes down to perspective.  

Vince Lombardi once said, "It is not how often you get knocked down, but how often you are able to get back up."

To often teachers and students see setbacks, wrong answers and failure as an end. 
However, these should not  be seen as ends, but simply part of the process towards success. 

It all depends upon perspective!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Zoetropes - Animated Science


I have my physics students make zoetropes as a means of solidifying their understanding of topics in phyiscs.

A zoetrope is a device that produces the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of static pictures. The term zoetrope is from the  Greek words (zoe), meaning "alive, active", and  (trope), meaning "turn". "Zoetrope" taken to mean "active turn".
The zoetrope consists of a cylinder with slits cut vertically in the sides. On the inner surface of the cylinder is a band with images from a set of sequenced pictures. As the cylinder spins, the user looks through the slits at the pictures across. The scanning of the slits keeps the pictures from simply blurring together, and the user sees a rapid succession of images, producing the illusion of motion.

Plastic Tub
Foam Board Circle 6” Diameter
6” Diameter Circle on White Paper with Center Point
Poster Board Strip  3.25” x 20”
2 1” squares od HDPE
Pre-made animation strip

Making the Zoetrope
Glue the white circle to the foam board circle.
Stick the nail through the center of the disc and wiggle it until the disc spins freely on the nail.
Carefully cut out the two animation strips. Do not cut out the slits. Carefully glue them end to end to the poster board. Leave 1” exposed at one end.
Curl the poster board with the animation strip inside. Overlap and glue the 1” in tab.
When the glue is dry, cut out the slits along the movie strip.
Tape the cylinder (slits up), securely to the foam board circle (white circle up).Do not allow tape to cover the slits.
Push the nail through a piece of HDPE, then through the foam disc, then through another piece of HDPE.  Put the nail into the hole in the tub and secure it with the cork.
Use the cork to spin the cylinder. Make sure the cylinder spins freely.
Your Zoetrope is Complete!!!!
View the animation by spinning the cylinder as you look through the slits.
This animations depicts the fusion of a 4 Hydrogen nuclei fusing to form Helium.
Helium contains 2 protons and 2 neutrons. Lightning bolts represent energy given off.  

Zoetrope Instructions
Zoetrope Strips  Sample Animation and Blanks

Drawing Your Own Animation

You will design two (2) animation strips to represent any two (2) physics concepts
You will be provided pre-formatted blank animation strips.
Begin with a plan.
Organize your diagram to fit the 12 box format.
Begin with pencil sketches until you are sure about your concept layout.
Use black ink to outline the diagram.
Use color to enhance your animation.
The more vibrant the colors the better the movement pattern will appear.
You can create depth to images by layering materials like construction paper cutouts, string, beads etc… to represent objects in the animation.
Because the 12 pictures pass by very quickly, the animated sequence should not by overly complex.
You do not need to be a great artist.  As you saw in the sample animation, the drawing can be simplistic, circles, squares and lines. Just use your imagination.

Animation Ideas

Falling Objects
Molecular Motion
Phase Changes
Simple Machines
Rotational Motion
Reflection in a Mirror
Refraction of Light

Thursday, May 10, 2012

10 Brain Facts

Each and every second of your life, several billion bits of information pass through your brain.

Messages within your brain travel through trillions of neural connections at speeds up to 250 miles per hour.

Your brain generates 25 watts of power while you are awake - enough to illuminate an light bulb.
Your brain uses 20% of your body's energy - while accounting for only 2% of your body weight.

Juggling has shown to change the brain in as little as seven days. The studyindicates that learning new things helps the brain to change very quickly.

The average number of thoughts that humans are believed to experience each day is 70,000.

Boredom  s brought on by a lack of change of stimulation, is largely a function of perception, and is connected to the innate curiosity found in humans.

There is no sense of pain within the brain itself. This fact allows neurosurgeons to probe areas of the brain while the patient is awake. Feedback from the patient during these probes is useful for identifying important regions, such as those for speech, that are spared if possible.

A child's ability to learn can increase or decrease by 25 percent or more, depending on whether he or she grows up in a stimulating environment.
It's no accident that telephone numbers in the United States are seven digits long. Our working memory, a very short-term form of memory which stores ideas just long enough for us to understand them, can hold on average seven digits.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Electrical Circuits Tutorials PhET Simulations

The University of Colorado at Boulder provides an excellent website for Interactive Simulations and Tutorials for Physics Education.  The PhET site boasts more than 75 million simulations that can be delivered online to teachers and students.

In my Conceptual Physics classroom I use the the tutorial simulation for Electrical Circuits.
Demonstrating both series and parallel circuits on the SMART Board is very easy.
Students can then use tablets or clasroom computers to build their own circuits. This tutorial allows students to understand a wide variety of characteristics of circuits.  The tutorial allows students to build circuits in a variety of ways including switches, wires, batteries and and light bulbs, as well as, inductors, resistors and capacitors.
Once students complete their circuits, they can utilize a series of built in tools including current and voltage charts, ammeter, voltmeter and a stopwatch to analyze their completed circuits.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Problem Solving with SCAMPER

One of the greatest difficulties students face is thinking outside of the box on their own.

Education has so handcuffed students into thinking the way the teacher wants, the book explains, the rubric directs or the directions instruct, that they have become incapable of striking out on their own for fear of being, OH MY GOSH!!! WRONG!!!!

Bob Eberle developed the SCAMPER system in 1982 to assist students in ways to creatively approach problem solving.

SCAMPER is an acronym of options students can call upon in their approach to solving problems by creative means when thinking outside the box and extending the boundaries is a necessary part of the process solution.
S - SUBSTITUE       What other material, process, method could we use instead?
C - COMBINE         What can we add, cluster or put together to change our perspective?
A - ADAPT               What can we change, adjust or do differently to fit the situation?
M - MODIFY           How can we alter or change the form or quality? Can we resize the form?
P - PUT TO USE      What else could this be used for? Where can this be valuable?
E - ELIMINATE      What could we remove or omit to change our perspective?
R - REVERSE          Could we deconstruct the information to understand the process?    

How many of us have witnessed that classroom where every students can follow directions and achieve the desired result? The classroom where 32 paper look exactly the same because each student can follow the designed algorithm and produce the expected end product?

But, can these same students think out side the box, without a rubric, without specified directions, without a known value as an outcome?  Can these students bring something to the table from another classroom, from a life experience or from another source and derive their own outcome?

It is imperative that the process of learning provide students the opportunity to problem solve free from expectation of producing an expected outcome.  To be able to experience the processes of due diligence necessary to produce an outcome, correct or otherwise.  A process that allows students to make mistakes without judgement, but encouragement to search out a better solution.  A learning environment that values that process as a means to an outcome but not the only outcome.

Allow students to SCAMPER.   


Monday, April 02, 2012

Paper Airplanes - Intro to Bernouli

“The airplane stays up because it doesn't have the time to fall.”
                                             -Wright Brothers -

As an introduction to Bernouli's Principle and the concepts of air pressure and currents,
I like to spend a day making paper airplanes with my students.
I found a terrific website by Ryan Farrington  
that has design plans for several variations of paper airplanes. 

provide my students with these plans. My students then must create and decorate four airplanes.  They must make at least two from the designs I provide for them.
(A great excercise in following directions) 
We then trek out to the football stadium and launch our planes trying to get them to land in the zeroes of the 40 and 50 yard line markers on the field.

 Students take notes on the effectiveness of their designs and methods of tossing their planes.
We then head back to the classroom to discuss the physics of flight and the Principles of Bernouli.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


During the last two years, I have tried to increase the Effective Communication aspect of the
Three C's of the science curriculum in my classroom.
Students have become so compartmentalized in the subjects we teach they tend not to bring their English minds to the table when it comes to writing in science.  While I explain to students that their are differences in the way we may present information in science, it is important that their written communication is organized, clear and concise and demonstrate the same expectations of gramar, punctuation, capitalization and spelling as they would in a paper for English or History.

To accomplish this, I have used an assignment called a TEDitorial.  I select and post a TED video ( on my classroom Moodle site every Monday throughout the semester.  Students must view five TEDs throughout the semester and compose and post an editorial supporting or denying the claims of the TED presenter.  Students must incorporate their own research and information from our classroom discussions to support their opinion of the presenter's information. 

The trend through three semester of this assignment has been very typical.  I usually need to spend a great deal of time explaining the difference between a summary of the TED and an editorial for the first two submissions.  I also spend a great deal of time correcting the English aspects of their writing. Which most students can't seem to understand why this is important in science course.  By the third submission most students are actually writing editorials and submitting extra in the way of links to websites they discovered while researching the topic further.  I also have discovered that interest tends to peak about the fourth editorial and students watch several of the TEDs before choosing one that they have more passion about and truly want to editorialize.

I have found that many students begin to visit the TED site on their own to search out information about other topics on top of the science and learning based TEDs that I have selected for them.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Prepare for Pi Day - 3.14 Pi Day

Pi Day Celebration Ideas

Website Links   The Official Pi Day Website.   Wikipedia Pi Day    Pi Day for Educators  Enter the Pi Day Challenge   Plan A Pi Day Party  Send Pi Day Greetings  Pi Day At Princeton   Pi Day Math Forum   Mathematicians Pi Day   The Joy of Pi

Pi Day You Tube Videos

Linear Paths of Learning

I teach in a linear manner.
I design a lesson that makes sense to me. 
A lesson that flows from point A to B to C and so on toward a learning objective. 
However, is that linear path suitable to only for me?
Do I take in to account the learning paths of the twenty-five bright and shiny faces that share my learning environment?
Do my students learn in that same linear manner?
Do we all learn in the same way? Just because A...B...C... seems tp be the, most logical and efficient in my mind as an educator, is that necessarily the most effective way to reach all of my students? Have I taken the time and do I know my students well enough to teach in the best possible way for them to learn? 
Have I addressed the student who needs to see the big picture and know the final outcome in order for them to internalize the value of what is being taught? 

Have I addressed the needs of the students who need to see all the little parts of the lesson, but learns best by putting them together themselves? 
Have I utilized images that bring the words numbers and symbols to life for those students who depend on visual clues to address patterns toward the ultimate goal? 
Do my students understand that the roadmap that I am trying to create for them is just one possible path? That there are other possible means of gaining the objective and that they may follow the path that most fits their tools and skills?
Have I created a learning environment for the sequential linear learner as well as the circuitous learner, to both find a means for their own success?
Have I given my students  a method to tell me when my linear path does not meet theirs?
Do my students know their own learning path and have I cultivated a means for them to explore their own learning?
Have I created an environment where the value is placed on learning and not grades and correct answers?
Do my students enter my learning environment knowing the expectations for learning come first and that grades and correct answers will flow from their ability to learn?
Am I a teacher of learning or am I a teacher of a subject?
Because the most important skill in life today,
is the ability to learn!!!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Guide on the Side

Focus on the Student and the Teacher
Language of the Student
Vocabulary of the Student
Instructors Model Learning
Students Interact With Students
Students Interact with Instructor
Classroom is Noisy
Classroom is Active
Students Evaluate Their Own Work
Students Critique Each Other
Teachers Monitor Evaluation
Instructor Provides Feedback
Students Choose Topics
Knowledge is Unlimited
Instructors Monitor Material
Students Answer Each Others Questions
Teacher Becomes a Resource
Pairs, Trios and Groups Work Together
TEAM takes Effect (Together Each Achieves More)
Emphasis on Process
Assessment is Inter-twined in the Learning
Differentiated assessment is the Norm
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Information is Synthesized
Focus on Understanding the Content
Real Life Examples and Utilization of Content
Learning Process is Evaluated
Teacher Becomes a Mentor
Based upon Student Engagement

Sage on the Stage

Teacher Centered
Teacher Talks – Students Listen
Language of the Teacher
Vocabulary of the Teacher
Instructor Chooses Topics
Teacher Filters Material
Teacher Evaluates Student Work
Classroom is Quiet
Knowledge Limited by Teacher’s Knowledge
Students Work Alone
Classroom is Passive
Knowledge is Passed Down
Students Receive Information
Emphasis on Right Answers
Classroom is Competitive
Learning is Individualistic
Assessment and Teaching are Separate
Testing is Primary Assessment
Information is Gathered
Focus on Completing Content
Based on Delivery

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Truly Renaissance Man

In the movie Renaissance Man, teacher Bill Rago (Danny DeVito), uses the example of
Leon Battista Alberti to demonstrate the renaissance nature of an individual who values learning and education as a means of making the most of oneself. Rago explains to Private Jackson Leroy (Richard T. Jackson) that despite the resume of Alberti including his work as an author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, cryptographer and general Renaissance humanist polymath, the only reason he remembers him is because Alberti could broad jump over a standing man. Leroy who has been burned by his ties to win at all cost athletics which have left him with very little future comes to understand that is is possible to be a "smart jock".  An oxymoron to Leroy who comes to appreciate that he can encourage his son to embrace education as well as any and all talents he may wish to pursue including athletics.

Leon Battista Alberti who left his mark on Renaissance Society through contributions in:
*      Alberti’s treatise De Pictura, was the first truly scientific study of art utilizing mathematical perspective.
*      Alberti worked with other artists of the Renaissance to create a handbook for the artist.
*      Alberti wrote one of the most  influential works on architecture the De Re Aedificatoria.
*      Alberti’s comedy in latin, called Philodoxius, was originally credited to be a genuine work of 'Lepidus Comicus'.
*      He is credited with being the designer, of the woodcut  illustrations in the fantasy noverl Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.
*      Alberti took a great interest in architecture his work can be connected to, restoration of the papal palace and the Roman aqueducts under Pope Nicholas the V, the church of Sant’ Andreream San Franceso and the façade of the Santa Maria Novella,shrine of the Holy Sepulchre. He is also credited with working on the Palazzo Rucellai and the Villa Medici in Fiesole.
*      Alberti was an accomplished cryptographer inventing the first polyalphabetic cipher.  The Alberti cipher led to his being referred to as the “Father of Western Cryptography.
*      In his autobiography Alberti notes that he was an accomplished musician, poet, painter, cartographer, astrologer and astornomer.
*      According to Alberti he was capable of "standing with his feet together, and springing over a man's head."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Child is Made of One Hundred

The following poem is by Loris Malaguzzi.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.
The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.
They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

Imagine if Picasso had listened to an art teacher tell him that he could not put both eyes on the same side of the nose of the grandmother in his protrait. 

And yet how many educators can be found guilty of this very act, as we try to get students to do things "the correct way".
Due to the industrialized fast food pedagogy of today's educational system we are all guilty of streamlining our processes to the "best" method.
But whose "best" method is this? The teacher? The student? The text?

The mind is only limited by the parameters we choose to place upon the learning process.

However, in order to overcome the possibility of chaos, it safer and let's face it much easier to educate the way McDonalds builds Big Macs.

Two All Beef Patties, Special Sauce, Lettuce, Cheese, Pickles, Onions on a Sesame Seed Bun. 
The same in Pasadena, California as it is in Arlington, Virginia or even Mazatlan,  Mexico.

Unfortunately this only serves to standardize everything and essentially as the poem suggests, steal the ninety-nine.